Interview with Bay Area Artist Ibea Castillo by Juliet Poucher
Along with being a full time psychology/philosophy student, film photographer, and Libra, Ibea Castillo is a 19 year old Filipino artist based in San Francisco whose main artistic focus is women embracing their sexuality in provocative ways. She generally utilizes women of color as her subject matter due to their under representation, as well as demons to create a dark, disturbing contrast. Her work greatly emphasizes on women reclaiming agency over their bodies, by displaying them with bold expressions and erotic poses, challenging the patriarchy that constantly wants to restrict our sexual liberation. Women have been shamed for centuries for their natural sex appeal and voluptuousness; Ibea strives to turn this toxic narrative into one of female empowerment and to encourage women to celebrate our bodies/sexuality instead.
Q: Can you tell us about what got you into this style of art?
Ibea: Women have always been my subject matter for as long as I can remember. It really just began with me trying to understand how to draw realistic portraits, so everyday I would draw a new portrait and use women I found on Instagram or Tumblr as my reference. I was also into makeup around the time I started taking art seriously, so I really focused on enhancing features and making these portraits as attractive as possible.
Eventually, my skill set evolved enough to where I was able to achieve the level of beauty I was seeking in my portrait drawings but I felt that they were almost falling flat. There was nothing to draw the viewer closer to my pieces other than the signature pretty eyes or full lips. I really need to create juxtaposition in order to allow the beauty in my art to shine.
Along with portraits of women, another form of art that really inspired me was horror illustration. Since I was already obsessed with portrait drawing, I was crazy fascinated with the techniques and features that are popularly used to create a really creepy face. Features such as beady eyes, crooked nose, over-exaggerated mouth, etc. It was the exact opposite of what I had been studying when drawing attractive portraits of women. It ended up being the perfect pairing.
The most memorable images are the ones that make you feel something. I try to elicit the feeling of discomfort in my art because I feel that discomfort is the best way to inspire change or at least create a lasting impression. I found that pairing really beautiful women next to these really jarring demons was the best way to create the feeling of discomfort, maybe even a feeling of longing almost as if the viewer longs for just the beautiful image alone. It was the best way to draw the viewer to those signature glossy eyes while keeping the piece interesting.
Duality is a principle I live by that trickles into my art. The strongest images are the ones with balance and contrast. The duality of beauty and horror in my pieces makes the piece complete. There is nothing else to seek because everything’s in one piece ready for you to absorb.
Q: Who are your biggest influences?
Michael Hussar is a painter whose main subject matter are these eerie, sexualized, over-exaggerated figures. His work is incredibly unique and my main inspiration falls in his technical ability. The way he highlights features is very intentional and it makes the piece appear very light despite the insane imagery. I have a lot of techniques in shading that favor Hussar and I think that’s because the way he shades is very applicable to makeup. Overall incredibly inspiring artist.
My next inspiration is Junji Ito who is a Japanese horror manga artist. Ito’s work is incredibly popular, he’s created iconic pieces such as Tomie and Uzumaki. He creates the most unique monsters that have so much range and dimension, his work is actually fucking insane to say the least. The images he creates are genuinely so disturbing and gut wrenching, I get endless inspiration from just one page. Ito inspires me to push my creative boundaries to achieve more interesting horror elements in my work.
My last influence is Manuela Soto. Manuela Soto is a tattoo artist who specializes in over-exaggerated hentai figures that encompass many different cultures. As a young woman of color trying to make it in the art world, Soto inspires me because she shows me that it is possible to be unapologetic and authentic when reclaiming your womanhood WHILE making a name for yourself in this industry. I love the way she has created a brand for herself built upon her experiences with fighting patriarchy and empowering women whilst tying in her own influences from her cultural identity. Soto is an overall powerhouse that reminds me that I, too, am capable.
Q: Most of your work consists of women of color and demons as your subject matter. What attracts you to these?
Ibea: I find that although I never attach any intentional meaning to any of my pieces, they end up a reflection of any internal struggles I’m going through at the time. As a woman of color, it’s important for me to implement them into my work due to under-representation. Using them as my subject matter is my contribution to the fight for more representation in all sorts of media. Aside from being good contrast against the women I draw, the demons represent any internal or external havoc in my life. A majority of the time they can symbolize helplessness or stagnancy.
Q: Which piece(s) are you most proud of and why?
Ibea: This piece is really important to me because it was the first time I had truly stepped out of my comfort zone. I realized I had become really comfortable with my previous work and it all started to look really predictable so I needed to do something completely different while still in keeping with my style. My previous work usually consisted of one forward facing portrait done in only charcoal. So this piece includes a 3-quarter view Oni mask, full body figures, and peonies completed with acrylic and watercolor paint. I made sure the entire piece was dedicated to a style or medium that I was unfamiliar with. I was really apprehensive about it since it was designed to challenge me but it ended up coming out just as I had hoped. This piece was my way of forcing myself out of my comfort zone so I can tap into more creative freedom.
Q: Your latest three part series is called “Sorry Daddy”. What’s influenced this?
Ibea: At first, I wanted to create a series based on inspiring women coming up in the rap industry such as Rico Nasty, Megan Thee Stallion, and Tierra Whack but then the anti-abortion laws had passed in Alabama and I knew I had to create this series in protest of these laws instead. It’s fucking dangerous trying to navigate the world as a woman living under a patriarchy that has decided that it can now legally control your body and the life of the unborn. Women of color are already systematically disadvantaged and these laws will do nothing but further endanger the lives of these women.
The hyper sexualization of women in the series is supposed to represent the unapologetic strength, beauty, and charisma women naturally possess that men desperately feel the need to control. “Sorry Daddy” was always about women reclaiming their narratives but this had become more than just reclaiming an image, it had to be about reclaiming agency over our own bodies.
Q: Are there any common criticisms you receive on your art regarding its explicit nature? If so, what’s your response to them?
Ibea: Surprisingly, I don’t really receive any criticism aside from my mom telling me my art is too scary. LOL
Q: What are your short term goals with your art? Any long term goals?
Ibea: My short term goals are to start up more commission work and sell more of my existing art through my Etsy. Aside from that, a significant goal of mine is to become a tattoo apprentice hopefully within the next year so I can start inching toward my long term goal of being a part of the tattoo industry!